Day 65: 2 August – Exploring Cape Range National Park

Author: Mrs A

Distance hiked: 8 km

Distance cycled: 8.5 km

After a morning of housekeeping (doing the laundry and making use of the free wifi to download some more Netflix) we headed off in the car 20 minutes south of Exmouth (hereby nicknamed Exy – i.e. expensive) and into the Cape Range National Park, driving up into the range itself. The wind had finally dropped, making for a much more pleasant morning.

We’d read about the Badjirrajirra walk online, with people raving about how stunning it is, a circuit leading to a lookout over a ‘mini Grand Canyon’…we had high hopes. I think we have been truly spoiled by the Blue Mountains and the incredible hikes around where we live, as, while I don’t deny it was a pleasant walk, it wouldn’t make my top 100.

High up on the range, it started at a lookout and lead off along the top of the range, through a largely barren, rocky, spinifex filled landscape. There were no flowers, extremely few birds (we saw two in nearly 3 hours!) and the national park authority had offered no information to educate us on the landscape. After about 90 minutes we reached a lovely unofficial lookout where we stopped and enjoyed a cup of tea and an apple, marvelling at the view. It was just as well we stopped there, as the official lookout was closed due to risk of sinkholes.

Given there was no information provided, a quick Google on our return educated us. We learned that here we were looking out onto Shothole Canyon – apparently named in the 1950s after the shot holes left in the canyon walls after explosive charges were let off in the search for oil. Nice!

We returned to Exmouth and decided to finally see the coastline, jumping on our bikes for an explore. Exmouth was on form as we headed down a road that looked like it headed right to a beach – surprise surprise, all the beach access points were shut due to someone burying asbestos in the area!

Instead we continued on and explored a new development, some extremely large houses, most of which enjoy water access and private moorings. It was rather interesting. Mr A later found out that many are owned by people in mining, some local business people made good, and mostly they are for holiday rental.

We returned to camp for hot showers and dinner. Not too bad a day! Off on a boat trip in the morning…lets hope the wind keeps calm and the whale sharks are cooperative!

Day 63: 31 July – Bikes, birds and beaches

Author: Mrs A

Location: Giralia Station (Exmouth Gulf)

Distance cycled: 17 km

We started the day with a mountain bike ride, heading off down several 4WD trails into the property. We cycled until the sand got too deep to pedal, then left our bikes and walked up into the red sand dunes, covered in beautiful wildflowers and a multitude of tracks from the action last night. It was a stunning location, so peaceful we could hear little more than the flutter of wings and the twitter of birds.

On our return we visited the homestead to learn more about where we were staying. Giralia Station had remained (at least partially) in the same family since the 1920s, only being relinquished in 2005 when the Western Australia Department of Conservation & Land Management purchased the land, recognising it as a site of special interest. It has several kilometres of coastline as well as much land which is gradually returning to its natural state since the removal of cattle and sheep.

Our explorations would suggest there are still camels wandering around here somewhere, with evidence of footprints on the dunes, as well as feral cats, having spotted small paw prints in the sand also. 

We decided to drive out to the coast, which felt desolately beautiful with the tide out and beach overtaken by soldier crabs hunting for a feed on the mud flats. We also felt cool (it was only 23 degrees C) for the first time during the day for ages – we almost needed long sleeves…almost…we must be heading south!

We decided to head out for a final bike ride before dinner, to try and spot the cockatiels and budgerigars we had seen flying past last night. Unfortunately it was a fated ride as an evil twig lashed out and attacked Mr A, catching him across the nose and cheek. He now looks like he has been in a fight…I meanwhile was fighting back the giggles as I tried to be sympathetic to his pain and embarrassment…I think he’ll be ok though (brave soldier!)…

Day 62: 30 July – Gas plants and sheep stations

Author: Mr A

From: 40 Mile Beach

To: Giralia Station (Exmouth Gulf)

Distance driven: 385 km

Distance hiked: 5.6 km

We had to tear ourselves away from our cliff top view this morning, and the first job of the day was a visit to the gas plant up the road. ‘Why?’…you might well legitimately ask. Well it was the only place listed on Wiki Camps where you could get water for hundreds of kilometres. So we joined a queue of other water-poor vanners and waited our turn, in the interim picking the brains of the other grey nomads about where to camp heading south. Catherine didn’t reach for her camera. We donated a few dollars to the Royal Flying Doctors as a payment.

Ms Google’s instructions for the day; ‘Turn right in 335 kilometres’. A short stop for lunch then another spell behind the wheel and we were soon turning off the bitumen onto the dirt road leading to our home for the next two nights…a 700,000 acre property that used to be a Marino sheep station. Its current business status is uncertain. 

Off we marched for our late afternoon exploration down a walk called the ‘kangaroo trail’. A couple of big reds obliged us with their presence, their fur glowing in the setting sun. We sat on a seat and I pondered with Mrs A about all the decisions, risks and luck, that had brought us to this place, this moment in time. 

Back to the mobile apartment and we joined a group of our fellow travellers round a campfire. It was a lovely atmosphere, listening to all these people (some even older than me, yes) laugh and tell their stories about life on the road. A Polish couple in their late 60’s were a hoot, sipping away at their home made bourbon, bringing a shot glass over for me to try. Suddenly up the guy jumps and starts telling a very risqué joke to the whole crowd. Brilliant…a moment to file away and smile about. 

We crept away when food pangs overtook us and Mrs A is rustling up a chicken saté. I know many of you are saying to yourselves  ‘Doesn’t he ever cook?’ And no, I don’t do dinner or lunch. I’m let lose on a BBQ brekky but that’s it. My role is sole driver and  executer of tall and dirty jobs (e.g. porta potty emptying – enough said).